Local News

Police ID possible homicide victim as chase suspect's girlfriend

Posted July 1, 2019 4:48 p.m. EDT
Updated July 3, 2019 5:27 p.m. EDT

— The Smithfield Police Department on Wednesday identified the woman who was found dead Tuesday after her boyfriend led police on a high speed chase in Johnston County on Monday.

The woman found dead in her Smithfield home Tuesday was the girlfriend of the man who led law enforcement on a high speed chase in Johnston County on Monday, police said.

Smithfield Police said Wednesday that Alanda Mae Abarca, 28, was found dead at her home South Fourth Street on Tuesday morning.

Police said that Abarca was dating Enrique Lopez and that the couple had two children together.

Lopez, 26, of Smithfield, led law enforcement officers on a chase on U.S. Business 70 on Monday. He died during the chase, in which he was shot by a trooper.

Abarca's death is being treated as a homicide, police said.

The two children are in the custody of a family member.

According to the Smithfield police chief, Lopez allegedly stole a wrecker from the lot of Paul Auto Sales, in the 800 block of South Brightleaf Boulevard, on Monday.

The chase began as authorities located the stolen wrecker and were attempting to stop it. The chase ended in a crash on U.S. Business 70, near Hardee Lane, after authorities used stop sticks.

"The number one goal was to try to end (the pursuit) before it got to the congested downtown area because the destruction and possibility of loss of life was high," said Officer Tyler Johnson, who deployed the stop sticks.

Clayton Police Chief Blair Myhand said he believes his officers saved lives. 

"I couldn't be more proud of the work they did Monday," he said.

Johnson said he did what he had to do to protect the public and the officers.

"I have to worry about everyone's lives around me," he said. "I have to worry about my life, my partner's life and getting home to my family."

Investigators said the medical examiner has not issued an official ruling on a cause of death for Lopez, who died at the scene.

Myhand said the stolen wrecker went airborne for a period of time and crashed into some trees.

Shots were fired by both the suspect and the trooper at some point during the pursuit, authorities said. Police said in a written statement that Lopez was struck by a trooper's gunfire.

Highway Patrol Trooper J. J. Kiser, a nine-year veteran stationed in Johnston County, has been placed on administrative duty, pending an internal investigation, which is standard protocol when a trooper discharges their weapon.

Anyone with any information about the case can call Smithfield police at 919-934-2121.